10 Unbelievable Movies Based on a True Story, According to Reddit

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10 Unbelievable Movies Based on a True Story, According to Reddit

As the old adage goes, the truth is stranger than fiction. Redditors recently got together on r/movies, the largest film subreddit, to discuss which movies seem the most unbelievable but are actually based on real events. These movies are so preposterous that they would be silly if they weren’t true.

Their picks range from films about shocking corporate malfeasance to biopics on unbelievable heroes and incompetent criminals to infuriating governments. These movies show, for better or worse, how extraordinary our world can be.



10 ‘I, Tonya’ (2017)

Image via Neon

This biopic delves into the tumultuous life of Tonya Harding, the renowned figure skater whose name became synonymous with one of the most infamous incidents in sports history. Margot Robbie turns in one of her best performances, bringing the skater to life. Not to mention, the film is full of outrageous moments that are completely factual.

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“One recent example that comes to mind is from I, Tonya, a film that intentionally makes you distrust everything shown onscreen because practically everyone shown is an unreliable narrator trying to make themselves look better,” said user Mst3Kgf.

9 ‘Compliance’ (2012)

A young woman sitting in a chair

Craig Zobel‘s Compliance dramatizes a disturbing hoax where an anonymous caller manipulated employees at a fast-food restaurant to commit heinous acts under the guise of following orders. It’s one of the most unsettling thrillers in years, mostly because it’s based on real events.

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“I remember people complaining that it’s a bad movie because of how unbelievable it is,” said Redditor mbd34. “In the credits, they said [there were] 70 cases of that happening in the same time period. 70,” said user SnooHedgehogs7626.

8 ‘Pain and Gain’ (2013)

pain and gain neighborhood watch scene with mark wahlberg and dwayne johnson

Pain and Gain tells the true story of a trio of bodybuilders who embark on a spree of extortion, kidnapping, and murder in pursuit of wealth and success. Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie play the bumbling yet dangerously determined protagonists. It’s smaller in scale than Michael Bay‘s usual projects but one of his best.

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“There’s a scene where the Rock grills a hand to hide the fingerprints, and the words ‘This is still a true story’ pops up on the screen,” said Redditor Odd_Advance_6438.

7 ‘Moneyball’ (2011)


Moneyball centers on Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, who revolutionized baseball by implementing statistical analysis and sabermetrics to assemble a competitive team on a limited budget.

“In Moneyball, the A’s blowing an 11-run lead and then winning on a home run scored by their misfit recruit reeked of Hollywood bullshit. It’s exactly how it went down,” said user Cypher5-9. “I don’t even like baseball, and Moneyball makes me wish I liked baseball. Such a good movie,” added Redditor Big_Tie.

6 ‘Changeling’ (2008)

Angelina Jolie walking out of a building in Changeling

Changeling is based on the life of Christine Collins (played by Angelina Jolie), a single mother in 1920s Los Angeles whose son mysteriously disappears. The authorities bring him home, but Collins immediately knows it’s not her child.

“Such a disturbing movie based on actual events of children going missing. I’ll never forget the scene with the policeman bringing over a boy and trying to gaslight Angelina into believing it’s her boy so he can solve the case,” said Redditor Ok-Sprinklez.

5 ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ (2016)

Andrew Garfield in 'Hacksaw Ridge'
Image via Variety

Hacksaw Ridge is a war drama about Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a conscientious objector who became a hero on the battlefield during the Battle of Okinawa. Doss single-handedly saved the lives of countless soldiers without ever lifting a weapon, earning him the Medal of Honor.

“I’ve heard the true story is even crazier,” said user Taosssmith. “They deliberately chose to leave some things out because viewers wouldn’t have believed they happened,” replied Redditor NoOneShallPassHassan.

4 ‘Apollo 13’ (1995)

Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, and Tom Hanks aboard a spacecraft in Apollo 13
Image via Universal Pictures

Apollo 13 centers on the astronauts and ground crew who bested seemingly insurmountable odds to bring the crew of the Apollo 13 mission safely back to Earth. Director Ron Howard deftly handles the remarkable true story with the tension of a thriller.

“Test audiences didn’t believe that the astronauts would have survived and didn’t believe that an astronaut’s wife dropped her wedding ring down the drain the morning of the launch. Obviously, I knew the truth of the survival story, but I believed the same as the audience did about the wedding ring. Seemed like Hollywood drama manufacturing, but nope it was real!” said user OathOfFeanor.

3 ‘Dark Waters’ (2019)

dark waters 2019 mark ruffalo0

Mark Ruffalo stars in this legal thriller as Robert Bilott, an attorney who took on the DuPont corporation after it polluted a small town with toxic chemicals. It’s a well-made film, well worth watching, and features a shocking story. The scale of the pollution is mindboggling.

“Learning that DuPont has been knowingly poisoning the public since WW2 with PFOAs was just too extreme. [I] thought it must have been exaggerated. But no, just terrifying,” said Redditor Domermac. “Between Dark Waters and Foxcatcher, Mark Ruffalo loves starring in movies about how evil the DuPonts are,” added user Ed_Durr.

2 ‘Midway’ (2019)

midway 20190

Midway recounts some of the key moments in the Battle of Midway, one of the most important naval battles of World War II. The ensemble cast includes Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, and Woody Harrelson, who face harrowing threats and perform feats that seem more like something out of a comic book.

“I thought for sure Roland Emmerich had taken some historical liberties,” said user Darmok47. “There’s a scene where the Enterprise is under attack and Nick Jonas‘s character (a mechanic) jumps in the backseat gunner’s position of a parked dive bomber and shoots down a Japanese bomber, which almost crashes into his plane. Turns out that’s exactly what happened.”

1 ‘The Great Escape’ (1963)

Steve McQueen in The Great Escape
Image via United Artists

The Great Escape is a classic war movie about a group of Allied prisoners of war during World War II. Steve McQueen plays Captain Virgil Hilts, a prisoner who masterminds a daring escape attempt involving secret tunnels and a lot of guts. The movie is heavily fictionalized, but it draws on real events.

“The Steve McQueen character was actually Jerry Sage, an OSS agent captured in the desert who grabbed the flight jacket of a pilot (otherwise he would have been executed on site),” said Redditor rick7475. “No one would have believed an American pilot POW was actually an American spy captured unbeknownst to the Germans. Unless you are thinking of Hogan’s Heroes!”

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